January 24, 2004

More on the media

Want to know how educational programming for children is plummeting, and other fun facts about the Media in the United States? Not as fun as the Necco candy facts I posted a couple of days ago, but far more fascinating.

Ten Things you ought to know about Big Media.

Two blogs in one.

I was in Saigon, Vietnam when the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked. I spent my first 25 years living in Arlington, VA, a mile from the Pentagon and the following five years in New York City, a mile from the two towers. My home -- and my home -- were attacked and I was, like the Americans who were my friends and family, emotionally shocked. People in Vietnam -- a communist country with state controlled papers -- said to me, "oh, but Hani, did you know that no Vietnamese people died? The newspaper said so."

"ARE YOU JOKING?" That's what I asked them incredulously. "If I was in one of those towers, I would have been reported as an American death."Do you believe EVERYTHING you read?" I'd say.

"What do you mean?" they'd ask, in total surprise, like I grew three heads. It has never occurred to most Vietnamese citizens that if they read something in print, it may not be true. That if ANYTHING is in print, then it must be true. Because it's in print. The Vietnamese education system does not allow the free thinking we were raised with here in America -- to question what you're told. To think outside of the box. To create. To innovate.

Who controls print? The communist government -- to benefit the people. This is why when I worked in Vietnam, we had to pay a government censor to censor our publication -- a directory listing of restaurants and shops. Once, I gave an employee the task of designing a new notepad with our new company logo. I gave him a sample -- for size and ideas -- of a notepad with our old rectangular logo placed along the bottom of the sheet. How did he 'design' the new notepad? He placed our new square logo -- stretched out and distorted into the shape of the old logo, so it would fit on the bottom of the sheet, just like the sample notepad I had given him. The Vietnamese fit square pegs into round holes -- and lack imagination, creativity, and innovation -- because they were taught great things, like respect for their teachers and their elders. They were taught to never question authority. Well, isn't the state-controlled media an authority? So, goes the logic, it is not to be questioned. Unfortunately, like the Communist-educated Vietnamese who were never given the choice, most Americans never question the media input they absorb everyday.

The voter fund of Moveon.org, an online advocacy group in the United States, recently sponsored a contest for Bush in 30 seconds ad spots. They were willing to pay the $2 million for a 30 second spot during the Super Bowl, but CBS refuses to air it. They say they don't want to cause controversy. Sources say that CBS, however, will air the advocacy commercials of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy -- which in the past has casually compared drug use with supporting terrorism -- a notably controversial piece.

You don't suppose it has anything to do with Viacom -- CBS's parent company -- lobbying for the lifting of Federal Communications Commission limits on media consolidation and conglomeration do you?

Nearly every channel you watch on television, cable, and satellite; every channel you listen to on the radio; movies you watch; and newspapers and magazines you read are owned by a mere six corporations owned by a mere few people, predominantly affluent white male. Kind of scary, don't you think? The fact that so much of our media is owned by so few people who regularly lobby the government to make their wishes come true -- paid for in the form of political contributions -- makes me begin to think that our media is becoming state run. Isn't it?

January 22, 2004

I [heart] you

I was at the Porto Rico Importing Company trying to use up my $84 of credit there (don't ask). Since I can only drink so much coffee on my own, I noticed they had the original Necco Sweetheart Conversation Heart Candy for a mere $3 a pound -- about 500 or so candies.

While the company history is pretty amazing -- they've been making candy since 1847 and the original recipe for the hearts began as the wafers (still sold today) since 1866. In recent years, they've acquired ten companies and they're debt-free. They've been using the SAME machines to make the candy since 1908 (or replicas), and they consult the original blueprints all the time to make repairs. They do zero consumer marketing. The most interesting tidbit on the company's fun facts page? "In very low humidity NECCO Wintergreen Wafers spark in the dark when broken." Those would be the pink ones.

Since the 1990's they started to change a handful of the sayings each year to reflect the times. This year's new sayings, as stated on their site, "promote sweet dreams and new beginnings:" [although "IM Me" is a bit odd!]
3 Wishes
Ever After
New You
Charm Me
Start Now
New Love
I [heart] You

That last one is in honor of the new Love postage stamp.

January 19, 2004

The Culture of Fear

I keep meaning to read Barry Glassner's book, The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things featured in Bowling for Columbine. Even while I haven't, I completely understand his angle -- and am glad that I don't watch TV.

It's sad.
These are headlines for today's news, literally, copy and pasted from WNBC's website:

Man Shot Twice In Head On Manhattan Subway Train
Woman Dies After Being Struck By Two Hit-And-Run Drivers
Newborn Girl Found Dead On Atlantic County Beach
Police Officer Kills Himself In Standoff With Authorities
Long Island Teen Killed While Skiing Upstate
N.J. Couple Finds Grieving Mother's Message In Bottle
L.I. Bishop Holds Extraordinary Meeting With Diocese's Priests
Sharpton Leaves Campaign Trail For MLK Day But Stays On Message
New Jersey Not Most Corrupt, But More Than Most
Autopsy Confirms Woman's Electrocution
City Says No To 'Oy Vey' In Brooklyn
Police: Teenager Fatally Stabs Father, Injures Brother
Cab Driver Charged With Raping Passenger
Physician, Former Drug Company Exec Charged In Wife's Slaying
Flight Instructor, Student From N.J. Die In Fla. Plane Crash
Mourners Gather In Randolph For Cheerleader's Funeral
Man Falls Through Ice On Lake, Apparently Drowns
Woman Dies After Clothes Catch Fire

Deep Freeze

Parbaked Butter Croissants
In my teeny tiny village studio, I have a teeny tiny fridge. It's one of those half-size ones, a little bigger than what you had in college. And it has one of those dinky little freezer shelves -- not much use ever, and a pain in the ass to defrost. Since I just got a Fresh Direct delivery yesterday, and I haven't had a chance yet to bake my fresh parbaked bread that they make, I'm taking advantage of the New York chill, and I'm storing the breads on the fire escape in their sealed bags in an additional bag (wouldn't want any fire escape drippings from the neighbor upstairs)... Seems to be keeping them pretty well frozen. While my annual salary is probably more than 95% of the world population, I haven't a decent place to store my food -- the life of lower-middle class Big Apple Living.

January 17, 2004

Tiramisu d'Agnese

Still haven't had time to translate, but if you know Italian, you're in luck. If not, try plugging it into a translation program, and then decipher from there.


5 cucchiai di zucchero unire solo il rosso dell'uovo (tuorlo) e mescolare. Poi unire il mascarpone e mescolare bene . Separatamente montare le chiare ben solide e unire il tutto mescolando bene. Prendere i PAVESINI e bagnarli leggermente nel caffe e stenderli nel contenitore di portata. Fare un suolo di biscotti e 1 di crema fino alla fine. Spolverare di cioccolato il sopra e mettere in frigo per 2 ore circa.

January 15, 2004

Shaking Up the Governor

The first time I spoke to the governor, it was in August 2003 in the stairwell at work, walking down 42 flights of stairs with him and several others in the New York City blackout. I don't think he remembers.

This morning I was formally introduced to the charismatic Governor Cuomo. We shook hands. He paused.

"Do you play tennis?" he asked.
"No, I don't."
"Let me shake your hand again." We shook. "Do you lift weights?"
"No, I don't," I shook my head grinning.
"Karate?" he asked, seeking out a reason for the strength behind the shake.
I confessed. "No, nothing. I shake hands."

After he watched a little presentation that I created for the firm, he turned to me and said "Let me shake your left hand."

We talked about the presentation a little and we parted, he said, "You're very valuable to the firm."


January 09, 2004

long time no hear

ok ok, so everyone says to me, "hey, hani, you haven't posted to you blog in months" so before my readership is reduced to one (my mom), i suppose i better start up again.

Italy was fabulous -- I went in October for my 30th Birthday and of course, loved it so much, I went back for New Year's. We rented a villa in Segromigno in Monte, just outside of Lucca and it was gorgeous. 17th century farmhouse, surrounded by olive groves and grapevines, gravel paths and cypress trees in rows. If you're interested at all, the company from whom we rented was Salogi, and the villa itself was Il Leccio. Marcello is the owner; a veritably sweet italian agriculturist, and the Fattoria-Mansi-Bernardini villas (there are five homes for vacation rental on the estate) are managed by the very kind Monica. Agnese was our housekeeper and she made my birthday dinner for me, complete with the most amazing tiramisu I've ever had. Recipe forthcoming, though it is in italian at the moment and I haven't had the time to translate.